Graphic Novels for MBAs

14 June 2016

This post was originally published on Public Books.

Over the course of the two-year program at Harvard Business School, an MBA student will read over 500 case studies. They range in length from a single page to over 50, but their format is typically the same: a description of an ambiguous scenario that forces students to read actively and decide for themselves what exactly is going on. But “Apple’s Core,” a 2014 reimagining of an original 2008 prose edition by Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman, would be almost unrecognisable to many of those students. Not because of what it contains—a study of the origins of Apple and the conflict between co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak—but because of how it’s presented. This may be a case study, but it’s also a graphic novel.

“Apple’s Core” begins with a page split into two large panels, like a title slide on a PowerPoint. The top of the page features a diptych of two photorealistic covers of Time magazine, side by side: one shows a computer being named “Machine of the Year,” the other Steve Jobs. In the bottom, larger panel is a ruggedly handsome Steve Wozniak; we know he’s Steve Wozniak because stamped in a text box across his chest are the words “Steve Wozniak: Co-Founder of Apple.” He stands outside the frame, staring angrily into a space beyond both the panel and the reader, speaking to a gaggle of reporters. A three-tiered speech bubble stretches diagonally from Wozniak’s gaping mouth: “Steve Jobs did not do a single circuit, design, or piece of code.”

Adrienne Raphel Adrienne Raphel is the author of What Was It For (forthcoming in 2017), winner of the Rescue Press Black Box Poetry Prize, and the chapbook But What Will We Do, winner of the Seattle Review Chapbook Contest. She writes for the New Yorker online, and her work has also appeared in the Paris Review Daily and Lana Turner Journal, among other publications. Raphel earned an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and she is currently a PhD candidate in English at Harvard University.

Keywords: art comics education graphic novels MBA Scott McCloud Lynda Barry Apple case study